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Tuvan throat singing (in Mongolian, ‘throat harmony’), or Mongolian throat singing is one particular variant of overtone singing practiced by people in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Tuva and Siberia.
In Mongolian throat singing, the performer produces a fundamental pitch and—simultaneously—one or more pitches over that. The history of Mongolian throat singing reaches far back with the popularity of throat singing among Mongolians seeming to have arisen as a result of geographic location and culture. The open landscape of Mongolia allows for the sounds to carry a great distance. Ethnomusicologists studying throat singing in these areas mark khoomei as an integral part in the ancient pastoral animism that is still practiced today. Often, singers travel far into the countryside looking for the right river, or go up to the steppes of the mountainside to create the proper environment for throat-singing.
The animistic world view of this region identifies the spirituality of objects in nature, not just in their shape or location, but in their sound as well. Thus, human mimicry of nature's sounds is seen as the root of throat singing. An example of this is the Mongolian story of the waterfall above the Buyant Göl (Deer River in Tuvan), where mysterious harmonic sounds are said to have attracted deer to bask in the waters, and where it is said harmonic sounds were first revealed to people. Indeed, the cultures in this part of Asia have developed many instruments and techniques to mimic the sounds of animals, wind, and water.
Khoomei is traditionally a softer sounding style, with the fundamental (or drone) usually in the low-mid to midrange of the singer’s normal voice. In this style, usually 2 or 3 harmonics can be heard between one and two octaves above the fundamental. Singing in this style gives the impression of wind swirling among rocks.